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Student Experiences and Interview Tips

Student Experiences and Interview Tips

We have asked some of our current Medicine and Dentistry students about their experience of being interviewed and asked them to provide a few top tips to help you feel sufficiently prepared when it comes to your interviews.

Priscilla - 5th Year Dentistry

What can you tell us about your interview experiences for Dentistry?

I remember receiving my first interview over the Christmas holiday and was elated. Over the next couple of weeks, I received invites from my other universities and began preparing for the interviews. I had three interviews for dentistry, two of which were MMIs and one which was a panel style interview. I started my interview preparation by researching all the popular MMI stations that tend to come up and the typical questions that come with them. I then started preparing my answers for these questions and practicing these with my family, friends and school. I prepared examples from my work experience and volunteering that I could easily talk about to help give my answers more depth and make them more personal to me. I also read over my personal statement a couple of times because I knew that interviewers could ask me questions from my application.

I think it’s a good idea to have a good understanding of medical ethics because this is a typical station that tends to appear in MMIs and it helps to know how to apply the principles to any ethical scenario that you may be faced with. It is also a good idea to read up on current affairs in the world of dentistry and in the wider news. Websites such as the British Dental Journal (BDJ), dentistryonline and the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP) give really insightful regular news on dentistry, so be sure to have a look through them before your interview.

On the day of my interviews, I tried to stay calm and confident. One way I managed my nerves was taking deep breaths before the stations and giving myself a mini “pep talk” to help me feel at ease. Looking back, I liked the MMI interview style because we got a few minutes before each station to read a brief in preparation for the station. It does feel quite fast paced as you don’t have much time during the station, but try to focus on answering the present questions and not worry about previous stations. This is different for panel interviews as you are faced with the same interviewer throughout. For panel interviews, be prepared for follow-up questions with the interviewer and make sure you have a positive body language.  Interviewers may seem scary, but most of them are just normal lecturers, tutors and dentists at the university who are there to have a conversation with you about your suitability for their dental school. Remember they can only go off of what they see and hear from you, so try to give your best performance and show them you’ve got what it takes!

What are your top tips for applicants being interviewed for Dentistry?

  • Practice as much as you can! This is one of the best ways to gain confidence for your interviews. Try to get feedback from your practice so that you know how to improve. If you can do a mock interview organised by your school or friends that will also be really useful.
  • Before each question, give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts for your response. This is really important for the more difficult questions because it shows the interviewer that you are thinking about your answer and helps you to avoid getting stuck midway through answering the questions. If you find yourself waffling, try to bring yourself back to the original question that was asked and go from there.
  • For online interviews, the approach is still similar. Don’t be put off by the fact that there is a screen between you and the interviewer. Be sure to practice using the interview application or website beforehand if you aren’t already familiar with it. Make sure your background is not too distracting and your environment also gives a good impression of you as a candidate.

Zoe - 5th Year Medicine

What can you tell us about your interview experiences for Medicine?

I had two very different interviews for Medicine - one at Cambridge, one at Leeds. The two interview styles couldn’t have been more different, although I was equally as nervous for both!

The first of the two interviews was at Clare College, Cambridge. The interview consisted of two one-on-one interviews, with a short break between the two. I felt that they put on a bit of a good-cop-bad-cop act, but maybe that was just down to who happened to be interviewing that day! One of the interviews involved talking about an medical ethics topic, and the other required me to work out what an unlabelled line graph might represent. I think they were more interested in how I worked through the latter, rather than whether I actually got the answer. Oxbridge love it if you can demonstrate some considered, logical thinking outside of the box! It’s also great if you’ve read some interesting books or papers that you can use to justify your stance.

Leeds use a multiple mini interview (MMI) format, and my interview experience there couldn’t have been more different! The MMI style means that the interview covers a range of different scenarios. For me these included talking to a patient, explaining why I wanted to study medicine and talking about an ethical dilemma, however they change every year. Leeds have a much more holistic approach to selecting medical students - they want you to be good at communicating, and to have a genuine passion for Medicine. The shorter interviews with quick changes meant that this interview felt much less formal than in Cambridge. However, by the time I had my Leeds interview I’d already been rejected from all my other choices, so I think I felt just as nervous!

What are your top tips for applicants being interviewed for Medicine?

  • Practice talking about your life/work experience in a reflective way, so you can use these to demonstrate why you feel you would make a good doctor.
  • Read around Medicine. This doesn’t mean reading long books or unintelligible journal articles – just take an interest in medical topics when they come up in the news, and maybe try some introductory books (A Very Short Introduction to Medical Ethics really helped me understand some of the principles underpinning medical practice).
  • Be slow and considered in your answers – it looks much more impressive if you stop to think about a question before giving a clear, thought-through answer, than if you immediately start rambling about whatever comes into your head first!

Alex – 4th Year Medicine

What can you tell us about your interview experiences for Medicine?

I had two interviews for Medicine, one at Leeds and one at UCL. I remember being so excited for these interviews!

My UCL interview was my first one, and I was so nervous. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I tried to practice with my family, but I didn’t do much reading or any formal mock interviews. The UCL interview was a panel-style one, where I was in front of three interviewers: two local clinicians and one member of the faculty. They asked me lots of questions about my personal statement, my experiences and my understanding of a career in Medicine. I found it really difficult to articulate my thoughts well in this interview style and couldn’t stop thinking about some of the silly things I’d said throughout the interview. Although I was really disappointed to receive a rejection after this interview, I understood why. I then reflected on what I could have done better and did practice interviews with friends and family to try and improve my answers.

My second interview was at Leeds, which was a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) style. I much preferred these shorter, one-on-one interviews to the panel-style, as I didn’t have the pressure of having three people watching me at the same time. This suited me better, as it focused on assessing my communication skills and problem-solving, rather than my understanding of healthcare or ethical principles. I also liked how the examiners didn’t know what you had said in the other stations, so if I messed up on one station, I could leave it behind and not let it affect the others. Having my UCL interview first enabled me to do better in my Leeds interview by highlighting my strengths and weakness.

What are your top tips for being interviewed for Medicine?

  • Try to think about what you got out of the experiences that you want to mention in your interviews. For example, it’s great to say that you’ve done some voluntary work, but the interviewers want to know what you learned from this. Was it an opportunity to develop your communication skills? Did you learn about team-working? Did you develop a greater understanding about something?
  • Prepare for what questions you could be asked, but don’t learn answers word for word. The interviewers can tell if you’re speaking spontaneously or just reeling off something you’ve learned. It’s a good idea to plan some ideas of what you could talk about but try not to go in with pre-learned or well-rehearsed answers.
  • Don’t be afraid to have pauses. If you’re not sure what you want to say, take a few seconds to collect your thoughts. Try not to waffle if you don’t know what you’re trying to say as it makes your answers less strong. It’s better to be succinct and take your time to consider a well thought out response than to waffle for the whole time.